Doctor Who #537: The Leisure Hive Part 4

"Don't cross your bridges before they're hatched."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.20 1980.

IN THIS ONE... Pangol becomes an army, but the Doctor throws a spanner in the works.

REVIEW: The Leisure Hive's short finale suffers from things happening because they must, which just goes to show breakneck coincidental/lazy climaxes aren't confined to the new series (a frequent complaint of New Who). Some of this is in the staging, especially the sequence where the Doctor goes from chamber to TARDIS and back again unseen by hiding in plain sight behind one of those giant jelly babies. It's completely ridiculous that the Argolin (or indeed, Romana before that) don't notice his moving about when he's he most visible man in any room. One gets the impression that Tom Baker, stifled by a bare script and the inability to add lines (though the mixed metaphor quoted above is very likely his), has decided to act out and enlarge his physical performance, to the detriment of the story's logic. He even looks straight into camera in spots. Ugh. The Doctor fiddles with some wires and replaces all the Pangols with unstable Doctors likely to disappear in a few minutes' time, though of course, none of them seem to be the same height. Despite all being pacifists, no Argolin even reacts to Romana's warnings as Pangol sends them veering into war. Why do Mena and Pangol seem to merge into one inside the chamber if he's just going to be rejuvenated into a baby? The Doctor stops whatever's happening in there by throwing a helmet at the viewer... which doesn't seem to be an important part of the mechanism. Mena gets out of the chamber and immediately starts barking out orders as if she's had time to reflect on what's been happening. The good Foamasi miraculously survives his ship's explosion, averting the war Pangol meant to start. And the Doctor leaves his randomizer on Argolis so the planet can, what, continue being a Fountain of Youth? And where do they find his coat so he can change from his Pangol toga?

With more than 5 minutes to spare to make it standard length, the production could have added the necessary explanations, reactions and transition scenes to fix most of these problems. Instead, we must content ourselves that a character finally says "I must explain" (the Foamasi, about the crooked land deal). We don't need everything explained, but we do need them to make sense within the context of a story. At times, they're rather asking us to be like the Argolin, unthinking, unquestioning witnesses to Pangol's (and the Doctor's) plans. Look at the pretty pictures and accept what you see. And though the Pangol army's swinging arms tend to silliness, and the Argolin have the worst peripheral vision on record, the episode does work on a visual basis. The unmasking of the Foamasi in quick editing of close-ups is quite unlike anything Doctor Who has ever done, and very effective. The Power of the Daleks trick to multiply the Pangol army is well done too. And there are cool effects like the cotton ball grenade and the tachyonic multiplication. But like the CGI-fests of today, I need a strong story to pin the imagery on.

One final note: The Leisure Hive seems to have a particular obsession with getting rid of the TARDIS randomizer which prevented the Black Guardian from catching up to the Doctor. Seeing as the last couple serials ignored it anyway, I have to wonder why they should bother. When introduced, it brought Doctor Who back to its roots when Hartnell couldn't control his time ship, and provided a good reason to drop the TARDIS wherever the writers needed it. JNT is apparently jettisoning the legacy of the Williams era (K9's is a work in progress), but there's very little justification for it. Even the Doctor's comments about the Black Guardian being a toothless "cosmic hobo" ring false given his reverence of the White Guardian in The Ribos Operation.

A great many changes were wrought by Fisher in the Target novelization, from the opening scene filtered through the perception of beach workers, to the chapter on Argolin history through a dueling tale, to the fountains of blood when the first victim of chamber dies.

- Still some pretty pictures to look at, but the production is in too much of a hurry to finish it to apply logic to the finale.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I'd recommend it as a departure from what Doctor Who had been doing in the 70s. Its slick visuals do not entirely make up for the gaps in story logic however.


snell said...

BTW, those question marks? They're not question marks. In Gallifeyan, they stand for "hope"...

JDJarvis said...

Way to much deus ex need to wrap the story up in this episode. I got a good laugh out of the different sized clones marching out of the booth.


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